Monday, June 23, 2008

PASSINGS: GEORGE CARLIN


LA TIMES Carlin came from the universe that included Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, comedians who used profanity to turn politics inside out. For them, words were meant to draw blood from the powerful while shocking the comfortable out of their routine lives. . . He will always be remembered for his routine about the seven dirty words that could not be uttered on television. . . .

Carlin was arrested in 1972 in Milwaukee for using indecent language. In a separate case in 1973, a radio listener complained after a station played part of his album. That case went the Supreme Court, which in 1978 ruled in favor of the FCC, saying the radio station could not broadcast those words at times when children could be listening. Of the Surpeme Court ruling, Carlin said, "So my name is a footnote in American history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of.". . . He was the first host of "Saturday Night Live" and appeared some 130 times on "The Tonight Show.". . .

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE Early success and celebrity was as dinky and hollow as a gratuitous pratfall to Carlin. "I was entertaining the fathers and the mothers of the people I sympathized with, and in some cases associated with, and whose point of view I shared," he recalled later, as quoted in the book "Going Too Far" by Tony Hendra, which was published in 1987. "I was a traitor, in so many words. I was living a lie."

In 1970, Carlin discarded his suit, tie, and clean-cut image as well as the relatively conventional material that had catapulted him to the top. Carlin reinvented himself, emerging with a beard, long hair, jeans and a routine that, according to one critic, was steeped in "drugs and bawdy language." There was an immediate backlash. The Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas terminated his three-year contract, and, months later, he was advised to leave town when an angry mob threatened him at the Lake Geneva Playboy Club. Afterward, he temporarily abandoned the nightclub circuit and began appearing at coffee houses, folk clubs and colleges where he found a younger, hipper audience that was more attuned to both his new image and his material. . . Among the more controversial cuts was a routine euphemistically entitled "Shoot," in which Carlin explored the etymology and common usage of the popular idiom for excrement. The bit was part of the comic's longer routine "Seven Words That Can Never Be Said on Television," which appeared on his third album "Class Clown," also released in 1972.

"There are some words you can say part of the time. Most of the time 'ass' is all right on television," Carlin noted in his introduction to the then controversial monologue. "You can say, well, 'You've made a perfect ass of yourself tonight.' You can use ass in a religious sense, if you happen to be the redeemer riding into town on one - perfectly all right.". . .

During the course of his career, Carlin overcame numerous personal trials. His early arrests for obscenity (all of which were dismissed) and struggle to overcome his self-described "heavy drug use" were the most publicized. But in the '80s he also weathered serious tax problems, a heart attack and two open heart surgeries.

WIKIPEDIA Carlin also introduced the "Two Commandments", a revised "pocket-sized" list of the Ten Commandments in his HBO special Complaints and Grievances, ending with the additional commandment of "Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself." Although raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Carlin often denounced the idea of God in interviews and performances. . . In mockery, he invented the parody religion Frisbeetarianism for a newspaper contest. He defined it as the belief that when a person dies "his soul gets flung onto a roof, and just stays there", and cannot be retrieved.

2 Comments:

At June 24, 2008 2:00 PM, Anonymous hippydippy weatherman said...

During a recent appearance on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show, Carlin said that America was "finished" because "no one questions things anymore" and that the population had been bought off by distractions, toys and gizmos.

 
At June 24, 2008 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RIP George. Another of the few surviving voices of intelligent criticism of the American status quo has been stilled, and there seems to be little hope of a new generation to take their places. Carlin will be much missed around our household.

 

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